Archive for July, 2014


Last week’s post, “Orwell in Gaza,” drew much response, including an email from Becca Orwell received yesterday. I reprint it here. In the interest of responsible journalism—the hallmark of modern media—I make no editorial comment.

Dear Mr. Perlstein:

I am disturbed, to put it mildly, by your post of July 18. While you reported my interview with Abu Jihad verbatim, you offered no context for my questions and his statements. Or my statements in question form. Or maybe more accurately, my clarifications of his statements, which some people might interpret as statements. Which they shouldn’t, since I am a journalist. Well, you know what I mean!!!

At any rate, context: I was, am and always will be entirely objective in my reporting. So some clarifications you owe to your misled readers…

I no longer attend Passover Seders because I no longer consider myself Jewish but rather an atheist (or am I an agnostic?) and a universalist, identifying with all downtrodden peoples of the world and condemning the bourgeoisie (does anyone still use that word?), which would prevent me from being objective about Hamas’ heroic attacks on Israel in support of its charter to destroy the criminal Israeli state and secure Palestinian self-determination from the Mediterranean to the Jordan. (If you feel this sentence is too long, you may edit it—but without perverting its context!!!)

The chador I wore at the time of the interview was given to me by my husband Mohammad. I never leave our apartment in Gaza City without my chador in order to maintain what you must know is a principle Jewish value—shalom bayit—meaning peace in the home. If a woman isn’t attentive, a home can be a very unpleasant place. (You get my drift.)

I had no hand in writing Abu Jihad’s media release of Tuesday through which he praised American and European airlines for cancelling flights in and out of Ben Gurion Airport as a result of a single rocket fired by Hamas that landed a mile or so away. I can certainly understand Hamas forcing another closure of Ben Gurion, although not this coming Tuesday when I’m flying to Paris to cover Muslim protests against world Zionism—providing, hopefully, that the situation doesn’t calm down before I get there. (You understand that I have a career to think about.)

Never in my Abu Jihad interview did I use the word “genocide,” although I now point to Turkish Prime Minister Erdogan’s remarks last Saturday that, “Those who condemn Hitler day and night have surpassed Hitler in barbarism.” As you would expect, the Jewish media then condemned Mr. Erdogan. (If there’s a difference between 600 deaths and six million, perhaps you’d like to make that understandable for the rest of us who aren’t into semantics.)

Finally, didn’t Denzel Washington call for Black revolution in America “by any means necessary”? Or did you not see that movie? Given that moral authority, almost every people or nation has the right to defend itself against aggression. (Stylistically, do you think “almost” gets buried in that sentence?)


Becca Orwell

The blog will take a break next Friday and resume on August 8.

Responding is simple. Click on “comments” above then go to the bottom of the article.


ORWELL: This is Becca Orwell reporting live with Abu Jihad, Deputy Minister for Information of persecuted Hamas here in besieged Gaza. Minister, I want to be entirely objective about the Israeli war machine. What’s going on here?

ABU JIHAD: The Israelis keep bombing our rocket launching sites and targeting our military leaders. Now they’ve entered Gaza to destroy the tunnels we’ve dug into Israel to launch commando attacks. But God willing, we will keep trying to kill Jews. Every Jew is a legitimate target.

ORWELL: So you’re saying you will answer Israeli air and ground aggression designed to annihilate the Palestinian people.

ABU JIHAD: That’s why we’ve been firing rockets at Israel all these years. Now, we can reach Tel Aviv and Jerusalem. Our rockets may be inaccurate—like the one on July 13 that hit electricity infrastructure supplying power to 70,000 Gazans—but we’ve killed one Jew in Israel so far. Insh’allah, we’ll kill another. We want Israelis to live in fear.

ORWELL: So you’re saying that Israeli women and children abet Israeli war criminals killing civilians in Gaza just because your rocket launching sites find shelter in Palestinians’ humble homes and schools.

ABU JIHAD: Obviously, if we put rocket launchers out in a field, the Jews will destroy them in a New York minute. But Jews are soft. They wait and wait before they get angry enough to respond. Then they warn people first. They think that peace and life are some kind of virtues. But if the Jews kill a hundred or a thousand human shields, no worries. Who doesn’t want to be a martyr? Besides, nobody stages a more dramatic funeral than we do. It’s all about manipulating the media.

ORWELL: So you’re saying that Israel shot down that Malaysian Airlines flight over eastern Ukraine to take media attention off its barbaric ground assault on Gaza.

ABU JIHAD: If we had such a weapon, we’d close Ben Gurion Airport in a heartbeat.

ORWELL: So you’re saying that Gaza simply seeks to defend itself against Israeli aggression like the withdrawal of Israeli forces and settlers in 2005.

ABU JIHAD: We will follow the Jews into Palestine and slaughter the Zionists. There can be only a Muslim nation between the Mediterranean and the Jordan. Read the Hamas charter. Then we will occupy the Jews’ homes and office buildings. I myself have picked out a condo on the beach in Tel Aviv. Praise God for Google Maps. If we have to kill a hundred thousand Jews or a million or more, this is only the will of Allah.

ORWELL: So there it is then. Israel wants to subject the Palestinians to a holocaust and bake the blood of innocent Palestinian children into their Passover matzahs, which I myself would never eat at my own family’s Seders, although I no longer attend out of solidarity with peoples everywhere seeking freedom from oppression.

ABU JIHAD: As a student in America, I once attended a Seder. I fondly remember the gefilte fish and brisket. By the way, you look lovely in a chador.

ORWELL: This is Becca Orwell reporting with the real story in subjugated Gaza. Peace!

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Psalms 90:10, which serves as an epigraph to my novel The Boy Walker, advises, “The span of our life is seventy years.” That makes “The Big 7-0” seem ominous. I know. I turned seventy on Wednesday.

Fortunately, the psalm holds out hope of additional life by adding, “or given the strength, eighty years.” Then it seemingly pulls the rug out from under our feet by noting, “but the best of them are trouble and sorrow.” So what’s the lesson here?

Basically, it makes sense to live in the moment. Only two verses later, Psalm 90 implores God, “Teach us to count our days rightly, / that we may obtain a wise heart.” Do what’s right and just today, not tomorrow.

So okay, I’ll think more about today than tomorrow. But what about the past? Socrates proposed, “The unexamined life is not worth living.” Too often, we examine our lives in exhaustive detail. The results may not be conducive to a healthy emotional state. That’s how it was for me over most of the last year leading to my birthday.

The problem is, certain ages present us with milestones. These can be challenging since we tend to think less about what we’ve accomplished than what we’ve failed to do. At 30, hope abounds. At 40, we believe we might make our mark. At 50, we start to make peace with reality. At 60, we acknowledge that most of our life lies in the past. Approaching 70, life stands in full review, although there’s more to be lived—given the strength.

Facing 70, I focused on my failures. Then I started to come out of it, capped off by my kids giving me an early surprise birthday party. Carolyn and I had planned a Shabbat dinner with Aaron and his husband Jeremy. Lo and behold, I came home from services to find Seth up from L.A. and Yosi in from Tennessee. I knew I’d gotten it right.

Now, I’m back to seeing the glass as half full. I had loving parents and still have my sister Kay. I have a great family. I hold a B.A. and an M.A. in English Literature. I graduated from Infantry Office Candidate School at Fort Benning. My freelance copywriting business succeeded. I own a house. I’ve planted street trees for others, fed the homeless and written five books. A new novel comes out this spring. I’m no world-class traveler, but I’ve driven across the continent. I’ve also hiked Yosemite, skied Lake Tahoe, descended into the Grand Canyon and crossed the lava fields of Hawaii’s Volcanoes National Park. I’ve been to the pyramids of Teotihuacán in Mexico, Stonehenge, the Forum and Colosseum in Rome, the Tokyo Dome, the Western Wall in Jerusalem and Petra in Jordan.

I’ve also thrilled to seeing Aaron dance in Paris and Bangkok, and Yosi play fiddle in London. And I’ve delighted in Seth’s Facebook posts from China, Japan, England and Germany. I helped save an old woman’s life in front of Copenhagen’s Jewish home for the aged and closer to home, pulled a woman out of a treacherously flooded street in San Antonio. I have good friends. And I play a small role at my synagogue.

I’m seventy. I’m good. And I’m moving on. Seventy-one should be a piece of cake. Preferably chocolate.

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